The trouble with today’s RPGs is that they don’t really contain a lot of role playing. More often than not the choices you make come down to the ‘good option’ and the ‘bad option’. There’s no real room for any morally grey decisions and the game’s overarching story line remains pretty much the same. Unrest from Pterodactyl Games seeks to right this wrong.
The game does away with all the fluff of RPGs, the gear, the levelling, the skill trees etc and focuses almost entirely upon conversation choices. There are some instances of combat but these are rare and always avoidable. Those of you looking for a huge adventure with dungeons and massive open worlds should turn away now as Unrest is a story based game first and foremost.
It is therefore important that the game provides a good plot and thankfully it does. Unrest avoids the fantasy and sci-fi tropes of most modern RPGs by providing a very unique situation. The story unfolds in the fictional city of Bhimra on the Indian subcontinent. Once a mighty empire, Bhimra is suffering a period of prolonged decline. The monsoons are late and the kingdom is racked with starvation, leading to poverty, disease and rising discontent. For the most part the game remains quite realistic although it does include the Naga, a fictional species of humanoid snakes from Hindu and Bhuddist mythology.
The gameplay itself is quite straight forward. Using the arrow keys you explore the city of Bhimra from a top down perspective, right clicking on people and objects to interact with them. On the bottem of the screen is your journal, map, traits and inventory. Once you are in conversation a new window opens that gives you the character’s name, picture, and relationship to you. The relationship is measured in three statistics: friendship, admiration and fear. These three bars decide how each character will react to you and can be altered by how you treat them.
As you progress through the game you will play as 5 different characters all with very different stories to tell and with very different views of the approaching revolution. This changing of characters helps keep the game fresh and interesting. One minute you’re a senior diplomat, dining in high society and dealing in politics, the next you are a peasant girl, being forced into a marriage against your will. Other playable characters include a priest, a mercenary and a princess. Unrest weaves a surprisingly detailed story that deals with the issues of racism, caste and religion amongst others. With so many characters, places and events, it can be quite hard to keep track of everything that is going on. Thankfully, everything you learn is automatically recorded in your journal, which you can refer to at any time.
Another upside to having multiple characters is that there is no game over screen. Making the wrong decisions can get your character killed and once they’re gone, they’re gone but the game itself carries on and their death becomes part of the story. The constant threat of death gives your choices real weight and you’ll have to be careful about who you trust. Most chapters are open ended and there are many different ways to complete them. Trying to decide what each character wants and how best to achieve that goal is one of the best parts of Unrest. In the city of Bhimra there is no good or evil, just various different factions all competing against each other. Do you stick to your principles no matter the consequences, or do the ends justify the means? Often there is no right or wrong answer to the questions you are faced with and almost all decisions you make will be morally grey in some way.
Unfortunately, this great potential is somewhat wasted by the shortness of the game. Some of the characters only appear in one chapter so we simply do not see enough of them for your choices to be as meaningful as they could be. Unrest would be a much better game if it were longer and if it allowed you to experience the consequences of your actions first hand. As it is, character’s fates are mostly just given to you in a text box, which seems out of place given how engrossing the rest of the game is. There is enough content here to justify the asking price, but not enough for the game to have a satisfying conclusion. The five character concept is certainly an interesting premise but it requires a longer game than Unrest to do it justice.
The other main flaw with the game is its technical problems. For example, moving between different areas always brings up a loading screen. The loading times in Unrest aren’t too long but they do break up the flow of the game. Aesthetically the game is quite bland and while both the environments and characters are colourful, they are not particularly pleasing to the eye. The game’s soundtrack is well suited to the game’s environments but isn’t anything special. Unrest also struggles when you’re in an area with lots of buildings and the frame rate really suffers. Since the game has such a simple graphical style, a solidly locked frame rate is not too much to ask for.
Unrest’s biggest achievement is that it sets itself apart from other RPGs. The unique Indian setting and non combat focused gameplay certainly helps the game to provide a fresh experience. Plus, its approach to morality is one that a lot of modern RPG creators could learn from. For a first outing, Pterodactyl Games have done quite well but they have found themselves extremely hampered by budget constraints. There’s a lot of potential here should the game sell well. Unrest will not be remembered as a role playing classic, but a properly funded sequel could be.